MSHA strip mine

The U.S. Department of Labor and Blackjewel LLC have reached an agreement to prevent the transport of mined coal off three Blackjewel sites in Virginia.

A bankruptcy judge in West Virginia is scheduled to hear several motions today in Blackjewel’s Chapter 11 reorganization case, including a final motion on keeping the mined coal in place.

According to documents the labor department filed with the court, department investigators found coal stored at Blackjewel’s Pigeon Creek facility in Stonega, a facility in Raven and another facility in Honaker.

The department notes that Blackjewel employees have not been paid for work they did between June 10 and July 1, the day the company filed for bankruptcy.

Employees thought they were paid on June 28, but their paychecks bounced.

Because the coal was mined by workers who have yet to be paid, it is “considered ‘hot goods’ and should not be transported or transferred until these workers have been paid their proper wages,” labor officials told the court.

In an Aug. 16 court filing, the company and the labor department agreed to halt the movement of coal, but the court’s approval is still required.

Labor reported that its investigators found about 20,000 tons of metallurgical coal stored at Raven and about 16,800 tons stored at Honaker.

They found coal stored at Pigeon Creek as well, but court documents do not specify how much.

Filings note that Blackjewel was continuing to transport coal from its Lone Mountain loadout in St. Charles after the July 1 bankruptcy filing. An employee told investigators he saw two 105-car trains, two 38-car trains and two smaller trainloads leave after that date.

On the other side of Black Mountain, Blackjewel miners in mid-July blocked railroad tracks at a Cumberland, Ky. mine when a trainload of coal was spotted attempting to leave the site. After several days, CSX and the miners reached an agreement for the railroad to move its engine but leave the loaded coal cars in place.

The Kentucky miners have continued the railroad protest and say they will stay until Blackjewel employees are paid for work already done.